Tincture Time: Making Tinctures

This isn’t the world’s greatest photograph, but we made a tincture the other day:

Tincture

A couple weeks ago we went to a local prepper’s group meetup and one member of the group gave a good presentation on herbal remedies.    One of the things she did was show us how to make a few different tinctures, so we decided to try this one.

You don’t really hear of people making tinctures often, so if you don’t know what they are I think the most basic definition is a liquid like alcohol, vinegar or glycerine infused with the oils from herbs.   This one is made from cayenne pepper, ginger, onion, garlic and apple cider vinegar.  The lady giving the presentation described this one as kind of a cure-all tonic.

Apple cider vinegar is the liquid medium that extracts the oils.   We picked this over alcohol because, well, neither one of us drink and we don’t keep it around (except for a bottle of two buck chuck for cooking).

Ginger is an antiseptic.   It’s good for circulation, digestive problems and respitory conditions.  It’s good for things like upset stomachs, colds, flu, nausea, etc.   I think it’s one of the more useful natural medicines I know of.   I think the aroma has a stimulating effect just like basil does.   I know when I was chopping it I was glad to have the smell on my hands later on.

Cayenne pepper is one of my favorites.  Just like ginger, it has a warming effect on the body due to the capsaicin.   After consuming cayenne you can really feel your circulation improve.   I’ve started putting a little bit of dried cayenne in my pre-workout drink and I think it does help improve performance.   For medicinal use it can help with infections in the digestive system and bringing down a high fever.    I might do a more in-depth post about the wonders of cayenne shortly.

Garlic is the other wonder herb.   I think it does just about everything. It’s good for circulation, digestion, fighting infections.  It’s a good antiseptic and people even use it topically for ear infections.   I’ve heard that if you ask herbalists what their #1 choice would be, most of them will say garlic.

Onions have medicinal uses too.   I guess the more color to the onion, the better it is (i.e. red are better than yellow and yellow are better than white).   They’re anti-inflammatory, diuretic (cleansing through increased urine flow), antibiotic  and an expectorant.

She added horseradish to hers.   I couldn’t find any, but I might be able to acquire some tomorrow.    Horseradish is a diuretic and increases perspiration, so it’s great for common ailments like colds, flu and fever.

The tincture was made by chopping up everything, putting it into a mason jar, filling it with apple cider vinegar and sealing it up.   I shake it up when I think about it and in about a month I’ll strain it and put it into a smaller bottle.   It’s very easy to make.  When we feel something coming on, we’ll take a few drops of it every day until it goes away.   The tincture will store for a long time in the right conditions (out of sunlight and extreme temps).     When spring comes and the dandelions start coming up, I might make another one she showed us of dried dandelion root and leaves with milk thistle.

I think this tincture will be nice because it covers just about everything in the way of illness.    I have a blend of tea from herbs I grew (peppermint, lemon basil, chamomile, catnip and bee balm) for when I need something calming and/or sleep-inducing.

I’m not trying to push these links just for the sake of Amazon associates’ commissions, but I think it’s a good thing to have some information on hand about herbs.   Sure someday if all hell breaks lose and we go back into the stone ages you might need some self-medication but it also helps improve your diet, health and general well being right now to use herbs.   I’ll probably post more on this subject because it is something that’s interesting to me.  I find myself flipping through this one quite a bit:

and this one:

The Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine is very comprehensive and a good reference for anything to do with herbal medicine and Your Backyard Herb Garden covers general uses of 50 of the most common herbs; things like growing them, preserving them, using them in cooking, aromatherapy and medicinal use.    There’s a lot of good free info out on the internet as well.

Catnip – Not Just For Cats

In middle school I recall hearing a few urban legends that smoking certain common items like banana peels and catnip would produce a high similar to marijuana.   I recall a kid claiming that he went on top of his grandmother’s garage to smoke catnip.   He apparently started hallucinating – he believed a black dot was chasing him and he ended up falling off the garage and breaking his leg.   Whether or not that’s how he actually broke his leg, I don’t know, but up until last year that was the only time I had heard of catnip being consumed one way or another by humans.

Towards the end of summer I had heard about all of catnip’s benefits and was able to pick up a few plants from a garden center very cheap – unfortunately I had passed up on several free plants from a different garden center closing down for the season within days of hearing that it’s actually useful from this website

Anyways, I have four plants around my yard, mostly worked into rockbed landscapes.   Catnip (nepeta cataria) is a perennial and sure enough, the plants came right back this spring.   I have them all in semi-shady areas where they seem to be doing fine.    Like other members of the mint family (catnip is also known as “cat mint”), it can be invasive and get out of control.  My plants are in places where I’ll be glad to have them take over and just consider that good fortune – it doesn’t need much attention, it looks nice, it attracts beneficial insects and it’s useful.   What’s not to like about that?

Catnip is a calming herb without harsh sedative effects due to the nepetalctone content so it’s good when you’re feeling tense or just looking to wind down one way or another.    I like to have a tea with catnip when I’m planning on tuning out and drifting off for the rest of the night, sometimes mixed with chamomile.

Catnip also helps with when dealing with an upset stomach and other digestive disorders as well as helping relieve headaches and symptoms from PMS.    The link I posted has a laundry list of all the benefits of catnip and I’d suggest going through the list to get an idea of all the different things catnip is good for.

As previously mentioned, the herb is in the mint family so naturally the taste is minty, although a lot more subtle than spearmint or peppermint.   It’s mild, kind of grassy and slightly citrus-like (I think).    I usually mix it with other herbs when I make teas, but it would be just fine on its own with maybe a bit of honey. Just put some fresh or dried herbs in a tea ball of some sort and let it steep.

This is a plant that be grown hassle-free just about anywhere with a ton of uses.  If you don’t have any catnip around your oikos, I’d strongly suggest looking into throwing a plant into your landscape or a container (not garden spaces though because it might be too invasive).

As far as smoking it goes, I have a feeling it’s just a school yard legend.    As for banana peels, well, I tried it in 8th grade after seeing the Dead Milkmen’s “Smokin’ Banana Peels” on Beavis and Butthead and it didn’t work.   Tasted nice enough though, I guess :::shrugs:::

Oregano

This is some Greek oregano that established itself somehow in one of my rock beds last year and seems to be doing just fine again this year:

Oregano is a perennial herb that originates from the Mediterranean region and can naturally be found in the cuisines of that part of the world (Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, some French, Turkish, etc.) and places influenced by that part of the world (Mexico and Cuba, for example).   It does well in partial shade and doesn’t really need a whole lot of attention.  It’s fairly low growing and seems to be just fine in places with marginal growing conditions (i.e. my shady rockbed).   I think oregano would be one that would be a good choice for food-minded guerrilla gardeners and/or those practicing permaculture due to these reasons.  Although it is a perennial, it is often grown as an annual in cold/temperate climates.   I think I just got lucky with the mild winter this year and it managed to make it through the winter or reseed itself.  It can be grown in a container fairly easily as well.

When cooking a little bit goes a long way with oregano and sometimes it’s better to err on the side of caution when winging it with a recipe.    Typically oregano is added towards the end of a recipe because excessive heat can alter the flavor.  It’s probably most widely known in our part of the world for being in most anything Italian with tomatoes (marinara, pizza, etc.) and in many Mexican dishes.    It also goes well with a bit of mint on lamb for a Greek-influenced dish.

Not only is it good in pasta sauce, it also has some notable medicinal qualities.   Oregano is considered a good herbal antiseptic and used as a remedy for respiratory conditions like colds, bronchitis, tonsillitis and asthma, especially infused into a tea.    The essential oil has been used to ease inflammation, especially in toothaches and joints.    Like many other herbs, oregano aids in digestion by stimulating bile flow and reducing flatulence.  Oregano contains vitamin K, some essential fatty acids, antioxidants and  fiber.

 

 

 

Dandelions: Friend or Foe?

 

Dandelions seem to be the bane of virtually everyone with a yard’s existence.   Although I support and practice the idea of turning unused lawn space into productive areas, I have no shame in admitting that like most Americans, the idea of a neat, clean, weed-free yard appeals to me.   Naturally, the bright yellow and prolific dandelion stands out in the spring (and parts of the fall) and often times takes over yards, sending many people out with herbicides to attempt to solve the problem, often with only limited success.

I decided that this year I was going to make the best out of my annual influx of dandelions by eating them.  So far I’ve been plucking their leaves out of the garden just about every day and throwing them into salads.   They’re very bitter, but mixed in with other lettuces everything is just fine.   I’ve been throwing some of the flower heads into stir fries as well.   I haven’t gotten to the roots yet, but I hear they can be thrown into stir fries as well.   I’m thinking about dehydrating some roots and keeping them around for future use.

Dandelions have some great health benefits, notably in the way of detoxification.   In fact, many people purchase dandelion extract (sometimes mixed with things like milk thistle) for this purpose.   Dandelions are a great diuretic, meaning that they help the body remove waste products from the liver and kidneys.   Dandelions are also said to help with acne and help prevent gallstones.   They contain vitamins A, B, C and D as well as potassium and some calcium.

It won’t hurt you to try to work a few dandelions this spring.   You probably won’t have to go much farther than a step or two outside your door to gather them.

Oh, if you really want to get rid of them, spray them with vinegar.   It’s safer and cheaper than conventional herbicides.   Just be careful that you don’t over-spray them and I wouldn’t do it when the temperature is above 85F or so.